The Utah Supreme Court has upheld the case against a retired New Mexico Air Force major caught trolling for sex in Layton with someone he thought was a 15-year-old girl.
Reinaldo Canton, 50, was arrested in 2007 after he traveled to the Layton Hills Mall to meet the girl he became involved with online, who was actually an undercover agent.
He had traveled from Albuquerque for what he intended to be a sexual rendezvous.
Instead he was met by FBI agents and officers who were part of the Internet Crimes Against Children task force operated by the Utah Attorney General's Office.
Canton was indicted on federal charges of coercion and enticement, then released from jail to return home to New Mexico to await trial.
The federal charges were dropped more than two years later after Canton claimed his poor medical health after a heart attack prevented him from travelling to Utah to face trial.
Assistant Attorney General Paul Amann filed state charges shortly after the federal charges were dismissed. While the state case was pending, Amann and the FBI uncovered photos of Canton snowmobiling with his family in the Colorado mountains in 2010, according to a press release from the attorney general's office.
Canton had appealed to the Utah Supreme Court claiming the two-year statute of limitations for the charges had run.
Canton argued that although he was physically outside Utah, he had a "legal presence" in Utah by making several court appearances. Assistant Attorney General John Nielsen successfully argued that was not enough to negate the fact the statute of limitations does not run while the defendant is out of state. The supreme court agreed in their ruling issued Tuesday.
Canton was working as a rocket science program manager for the Air Force in Albuquerque when he arranged to have sex with the undercover agent posing as a young girl, according to the ruling. Canton engaged the agent in sexually explicit conversation and ultimately arranged to meet the girl for sex at the Layton Hills Mall.
Attorney General Spokesman Ryan Bruckman said such cases can be surprising given the publicity over the years that police are actively working undercover online to seek out child sex predators by posing as underage children.
"The ICAC guys tell me these men trolling online just want it to be true so bad they'll risk it," Bruckman said.
Canton had pleaded guilty in 2011 to one count of enticing a minor over the internet, a class A misdemeanor, in 3rd District Court in return for dismissal of two identical charges.
The plea was taken with his planned appeal of the case allowed on his claim the two-year statute of limitations had run out on the charges, according to court records.
He was also sentenced to six months in jail in August, 2011, while the appeal was pending.